The grand dame of all the art museums in Los Angeles is LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art). In fact it is the largest art museum in the western United States. LACMA covers twenty acres in the heart of the city of Los Angeles. Consisting of a breathtaking collection of international pieces, which include Asian, Latin American and Islamic art over a vast history, the museum seeks to represent a variety of beautiful objects from historic artifacts to great European Impressionists to the best of contemporary art. Also impressive are the ongoing programs. For instance, the Mapplethorpe exhibit which is juxtaposed to the Caravaggio exhibit: two great artists who pushed the envelope of their artistic periods.
The art of filmmaking is celebrated by way of the Stanley Kubrick exhibit now showing at LACMA through June 30, 2013. Stanley Kubrick has been celebrated as one of the best filmmakers of his time, and in true artiste fashion, his larger than life personality and manic need for control play out in the exhibit. Kubrick directed many incredible films. Among them are The Shining, Eyes Wide Shut, Barry Lyndon and 2001: A Space Odyssey. If you’ve ever seen his films then you’ll know that they are both brilliant and unconventional. The man is a genius. There is no romcom predictable formula in his work. His films leave one to ponder new ideas — truly the definition of art. The exhibit is outstanding as it addresses the processes of Kubrick’s filmmaking and includes scripts production photography, lenses, costumes, and props. Los Angeles is full of movie junkies and they will have a great time geeking out with this exhibit!
Bodies and Shadows:
Caravaggio and His Legacy
Showing now until February 10, 2013 is the Caravaggio exhibit, Bodies and Shadows: Caravaggio and His Legacy. The show is focused on the remarkable style of Caravaggio and those painters who followed and replicated his techniques. Including eight works by Caravaggio and another four-dozen pieces from the 17th century by his Italian, French, Spanish and Dutch disciples. The style of Caravaggio’s painting — which was revolutionary at the time — captures a raw realism that leaves one transfixed by the emotion portrayed in his subjects. His personal life was also intriguing. He spent much of his time touring Italy, creating amazing art but leaving a path of destruction including charges of murder and his own death under dubious circumstances. It was later, in the 1900s, when audiences and art lovers finally realized his incredible talent and secured for him his important place in the history of painting.
Robert Mapplethorpe: XYZ
When you think of the work of Robert Mappelthorpe you may immediately think of controversy instead of his art — and that’s because his work started the debate between the definition of art as opposed to the definition of pornography. Being a nation of puritans, many citizens of the United States during the 1980s Culture Wars were outraged when government funds were used to finance exhibits of his work. This was due to the fact that many defined his work as pornography rather than art. Mapplethorpe, as you may know, was a gifted photographer; there is no doubt in that. However his work pushed the boundaries of what was considered acceptable due to the homoeroticism evident in some of his art. His gift was in his ability to capture the unguarded realism of his subjects in black and white film. His portraits include many celebrated intellectuals of the late 70s and 80s including William Burroughs, David Hockney, Gregory Hines and Isabella Rosellini. His floral still life’s are stunningly stark and are so powerful that the images give audiences chills. And then there are his nudes, the source of the controversy. In addition to being considered pornographic, they also had a slight tinge of racism. Yet, like historic Greek sculptures, his images are beautiful. The beauty in the contour of a strong gluteus maximus is very hard to deny and thus initiated the debate as to whether or not public funds should be used for such artworks, or indeed of any artworks. This exhibit allows viewers to form their own opinions, as it features images from the risqué to the stark simplicity of his floral still life work.
What we have at LACMA are various pieces of work from the Predynastic Period (5550 – 3100 BCE) of Egypt to the Roman Period (31 BCE – 337 CE). The collection offers a glimpse into ancient life in Egypt including everyday items such as bowls and knifes, to the extravagant grave goods that accompanied deceased kings and queens on their way to the afterworld.
Art of the Ancient Americas
The collection of the art of the Ancient Americas extends over three thousand years of artistic and craft production. Beginning around 1500 BCE until the arrival of Europeans in the early sixteenth century. The collection includes the geographic regions of Mesoamerica, the western Andes and the area that is now Columbia. This region produced rich works of art that were significant to their magical cultural practice. Jade was considered to be more valuable than gold, and various animal spirits were celebrated in figurines. Being in tune with celestial and terrestrial cycles was crucial to artistic development, and the extensive collection at LACMA spans from mundane to spiritually significant.
Greek and Roman Art
The William Randolph Hearst Collection bequeathed the majority of the Greek and Roman pieces to LACMA. There are several Roman copies of the Greek originals that were excavated in the late 1700s in Rome. Greek mythology is the main subject of this collection including the Hope Athena, which is one of the most important, and best-preserved Roman sculptures from Hearst’s collection.
European painting and sculpture
The collection of European paintings and sculptures at LACMA extends from the twelfth to the early twentieth centuries, and covers all major styles of European painting from medieval Gothic to Impressionism. Included in the collection are many Italian baroque paintings and Dutch paintings from the Golden Age. Our favorites of the collection include better-known names such as the works of Paul Cézanne, Claude Monet, and Pierre –Auguste Renoir. LACMA boasts a large selection of sculptures by the great Auguste Rodin.
Art of the Ancient Near East
This remarkable collection consists of over 2000 pieces with specific emphasis on Iranian art. LACMA’s collection of Iranian prehistoric pottery offers an important cultural view of very early artistic impressions. The collection also includes pieces of rock-cut art from the royal palaces of emerging Assyrian kingdoms, including inscribed bas-reliefs and glazed bricks. One of our favorite pieces of this historically important collection is a pair of earring from the Sasania period. These solid gold artifacts are handmade and signified wealth and prestige.
After taking leave for about five years, Chinese art is back on display at LACMA, thanks to the work of Stephen Little and Christina Yu who direct the departments for Chinese and Korean art. The Chinese exhibit tells the story of art in China through first explaining the wide artistic diversity as created in different dynasties. Each dynasty brought about changes in aesthetics and technology. One very special item on display is a Lidded Ritual Food Cauldron from the Zhou dynasty (1046 – 256 BCE). These particular kinds of artifacts were “spirit objects”, used for burial ceremonies to celebrate and worship ancestors.
The Korean Art collection at LACMA is extensive and was initially started by a donation of Korean ceramics from Park Chung-hee who was the leader of South Korea from 1961 to 1979. He gifted the ceramics to LACMA after a visit to the museum in 1966. The collection was further increased with a significant donation of 200 pieces in 2000. Our favorites among the collection are the stunning ceramics that go back to the Three Kingdoms era, and the more modern and glossy porcelain pieces from the Joseon era. In addition to ceramics, the Korean art collection at LACMA includes drawings and paintings. The art is so spectacular and beautiful it may take your breath away.
LACMA is open everyday except Wednesday, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Admission is $15 or free for members, special exhibits cost extra. Self parking available for $10 and public transportation is encouraged.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
5905 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90036